In recent years, the recession has stressed the financial condition of consumers of all economic backgrounds, when jobs have disappeared, businesses have gone under and bills have gone unpaid. Those looking for debt relief in the past five years have had plenty of company. For some, the hard times are not yet over.
If you are struggling with debt, especially unsecured credit card or healthcare debt, you may be considering filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a legal process governed by federal law that allows individuals and businesses to obtain a fresh financial start by discharging or reorganizing debt.
Two common forms of bankruptcy for consumers are Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which are named for their respective chapters in the United States Bankruptcy Code.
What is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
If you have little property, substantial debt and no stable means of paying off your debt, you may be eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Features of this type of bankruptcy petition include:
- To begin a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a debtor files a petition listing all of the debtor’s assets and all of the debts to be discharged.
- Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy. The bankruptcy trustee sells non-exempt assets of the debtor to pay creditors. Unsecured creditors in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy rarely receive the full value of their claims.
- With some exceptions, unsecured debt is discharged in approximately five or six months after the initial filing.
- The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 changed the eligibility requirements for consumers filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. To prevent abuse of debt discharge, consumers filing Chapter 7 who earn more than the median income in your area must now pass a rigorous income standard, called the means test (unless over one-half of your debt is business related, rather than consumer debt, in which case the means test may not apply.)
If your bills are stacking up and you know you cannot pay, bankruptcy may be an option for you. If you are thinking about debt relief in Jacksonville, Florida, speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Attorney Shane Herbert also contributed to this blog post.